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Arizona has opportunity to earn believers Saturday against UCLA

arizona-vs-texas-tech-game-thread-live-stream-tv-channel-score-updates-odds-radio-chat Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After losing to Hawaii, many wanted to give up on the 2019 Arizona Wildcats.

After beating Northern Arizona, many wanted to see something more from the 2019 Arizona Wildcats.

After knocking off Texas Tech, many want to see if the performance was an aberration or a sign of things to come for the 2019 Arizona Wildcats.

As I wrote last week, it’s tough to have a good read on the Wildcats as they enter Pac-12 play. They’ve looked good in some areas — even great — while looking quite bad in others.

And yet, they’ve shown flashes of competence in places (ie: defense) where no one really expected to find any, giving credence to the idea that maybe, just maybe, that side of the ball is not a lost cause.

But as anyone who has followed Arizona sports knows, it’s best to never get one’s hopes up. Not that anyone should be thinking about roses right now, but when it comes to thinking that this specific team has things figured out, it’s best to wait and see.

This game against UCLA is a great chance for the Cats to show something.

Regardless of their crazy win in Pullman over Washington State last weekend, UCLA, at 1-3, is not a good football team. They have some good players, with recruiting classes that ranked no lower than sixth each of the last four years, and they have a coach who I still believe is one of the best in the nation.

But through one season and four games of the Chip Kelly era, the Bruins have been little more than a disappointment. Really, it’s not unlike what’s gone on in Tucson, where new coaches came aboard with considerable buzz only to have disappointing starts with their new programs.

Both Kelly and Sumlin have their fair share of detractors, and each of their respective programs are trying to find their footing in order to start moving forward. Arizona appears to be slightly ahead, for now, but that statement is certainly subject to what happens at Arizona Stadium in this game.

For a Wildcats program that still desperately needs to show progress, coming up short Saturday would be a disheartening disappointment.

Would it end their season? Technically, no. But if Arizona falters Saturday night, it does not bode well for future.

To wit: Although a bowl game is not a high bar, failure to get to one this season would be an incredibly bad look on Arizona’s coaching staff. It will take at least six wins to get there, and if the Wildcats don’t get their third against UCLA it is very difficult to find four over their final eight games.

Things could change, but as of now Arizona figures to be a favorite in just one other contest — a November home date with Oregon State — the rest of the way. Last year’s Cats were 2-2 after four games and were a collapse against ASU away from getting a sixth win, but a start like that with a team like this leaves little room for error.

Besides, if Arizona can’t beat UCLA at home after a week off, what reason is there to believe they can earn wins against the non-Oregon States on their schedule?

Quite simply, there isn’t any.

Upsets are great and with Arizona somewhat expected, but good teams win the games they are supposed to. If the Wildcats are anything more than a bad team themselves, this is a game they will not lose.

It does not even matter so much how Arizona wins. So far this season we’ve seen them in one game win with great offense and in another a stout defense. Combining the two would be lovely, but there’s no reason to be greedy.

There are better opponents on Arizona’s schedule, and no doubt it would be great to see the Wildcats prevail over them. But for a team still finding its way, the cliche of taking things one game at a time rings true. Wins over NAU and even Texas Tech, although nice, aren’t enough to cause anyone to fully buy in.

Take care of business and beat UCLA on Saturday, however, and the 2019 Arizona Wildcats may yet turn people into believers.